While we search for our own identity as an alternative to assimilation and following the crowd, thus not becoming a carbon copy of others, we place ourselves in a position where we are sometimes ignored, ridiculed, bullied and mistreated to force us to conform.
There are many reasons people don’t fit in, you could be too much of a joker and not serious enough, too much of a nerd and too serious, your body or face are not attractive, you are of a different culture, you are homeless, you are too outspoken, you work too hard, you are a dole bludger, you are an alcoholic, you are gay, you are fat, you are disabled, you are a drug addict, you are too talkative, you are too quiet or shy, you are not into sports and the list goes on. Who’s judgement is this? Why is it so important to you?
Frida Kahlo a famous Mexican artist and disabled after a horrific bus accident once wrote:
There are two personality types Introverts and Extroverts. Introverts usually like time to themselves, don’t like confrontation are analytical, introspective, organised and more cautious whereas extroverts may be more outgoing, spontaneous, open to discussion, creative or big picture. Sometimes people can be a little of both but the important thing to recognise here is that you can learn to be an extrovert even when you are really an introvert.
If you want to fit in what does that actually mean, it can include things like:
- you have lots of friends
- your family cherish you
- you feel you belong
- people value your opinion
- people listen to you
- you are invited to do different things by friends
- you are the centre of attention
Feeling like you don’t belong whether you are an adult or a child is hard to confront. It is painful and confusing. Sometimes it has to do with your social or communication skills other times it can be as subtle as the clothes you wear or having different food in your lunchbox. The good news is you have total control over your thoughts and don’t have to feel you have to give in and change unless you want to.
My friends son was bullied at school. To fit in he would take sweets everyday to bribe his friends to play with him. These kids would take the sweets then ignore him. Soon he didn’t want to go to school. His parents went and spoke to the classroom teacher and the teacher spoke to the child asking who was treating him badly. The child refused to name anyone who was treating him badly as he felt that it would get worse if he gave up names. The end result was nothing changed and thus his parents decided to move him out of his school to another.
When working as a consultant I am across a woman who was in a senior position within a government agency. Each day she was teased mercilessly by her boss. Sexual innuendos, unworthy jobs for her rank, critical appraisals in front of her work colleagues were some tools used by this man. Eventually she had to take stress leave.
The two examples above are different forms of bullying, but no matter the age you need to consider strategies you can put into play, if you feel that you are being treated as an outcast.
- Find your own group. There are many within the different environments we engage in and somewhere there are people more accepting or similar to us.
- Change jobs, schools if you are constantly being unfairly targeted
- File a report to Human Resources
- If you have difficulty communicating consider undertaking some workshops or join a group that will teach you skills that may help you
- If you feel you are being judged look at what you are doing and try different things to see why people are reacting that way
- Recognise that you have your own uniqueness, there are others out there like you.
Any confrontation you face is a problem to be solved and that can only occur if you participate and speak up. Be your authentic self, that’s novel for some people.
In our ridiculously social world where we are constantly connected, sharing images, feelings, asking advice from friends and strangers through the various technology applications we have become easy scapegoats. You only need to read some of the things shown or written on Facebook to be aware of what is going on. Our need for connection is driving us to accept certain things from others which some people are not strong enough to ignore. At the worst end of the spectrum it leads to suicide, much anxiety and the least end of the spectrum tears and sadness.
Martin Luther King used the analogy of a cup of coffee when he talked about segregation and I use it as an example of what happens to people when total conformity occurs. He states when you first make a coffee it is strong and black, you add a little milk and dilute it, you add more milk and dilute it more, eventually you don’t recognise it because it is so diluted it has lost what made it unique and different. How much of you are you prepared to lose to be accepted?
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© 2017 Kia Haere Counselling and Life Coaching